I lead a recruiting company. Many of our customers are looking for candidates who use servant leadership or something in that form if not that name. So, what is servant leadership, and where did this idea come from?
Well, Jesus started it, and no one can stop it as He still speaks.
The disciples were arguing over wh0 would be the greatest, and they drew an idea out of him that they put in the gospels.
25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave
Jesus started a revolution in leadership right there.
When I was at West Point, our future was to lead experienced troops while we had no experience. It sounded pretty intimidating to me.
However, Jesus’ words challenged me. I was puzzling and still nervous.
Then, I bought a Christian book on leadership called Be the Leader You Were Meant To Be by Leroy Eims. I was looking for some tricks to get people to listen to me while still puzzling on servant leadership. In the first chapter, he talked about being the right person. In the second chapter through to near the end of the book, every chapter was about being the right person. Finally, in the final chapter he gave a few practical ways. I was moved even more.
It is Not Position or Skills
People should not follow us because we have a big title, but because of what God has and is making us. I was reminded of a verse that I memorized in high school.
12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
God is working to change us from the inside if we let him. He wants us to be and not make us manipulators.
Anyway, I still did not know practically how to lead hardened soldiers. Be a servant? Do I just follow these guys around? Really?
What is Servant Leadership? Facilitation is one Key
Then I realized that Jesus was saying my job as a leader is to facilitate the success of those who I lead. I made them a success and they made me a success. I learned to get them to want to follow me rather than must follow me.
Then Jesus’ words made sense. People come to the army or the church with a heart to achieve something. They do not want to just be lazy and then tell their children about the nothing they did.
My job was to help them to be all they could be. Just as Jesus through adopting us, empowers us, we also need to see the potential in each person we face, and think how to help and support them to be all they can be.
Personality is not the key. It is our heart to facilitate rather than be the king. Can we give our workers public credit for their great work? Can we stand beside them and even take the blame when they fail? Then we are servant leaders. We should never forget that Jesus certainly took the blame for us.
Thankfully, Jesus gave me a way and heart in the army, a factory, a Christian Non-Profit, and my recruiting business to lead as He taught. Jesus gave me/us a path to sit on the same side of a table with people we lead and work with them to help them achieve what they desire. May we love and facilitate people all our lives for the glory of a God who showed us this better way. See also Great Vision Needs Great Leadership.